So, what to start with and how to write academic papers? The first thing your instructor asked you to do is to submit your topic for approval. Naturally, the paper will fall within the class subject, but there are hundreds if not thousands of topics within the subject matter. How do you choose your topic?
Fact it, professors have read numerous papers on the subject they teach. They are topical experts. If you're satisfied with getting a passing grade then choose a common topic within the subject, do a quick check online and at the school's library to ensure you have plenty of resources available, then submit your topic for approval.
On the other hand, if you want an excellent grade and possibly a recommendation from the professor later on, then it's time to think outside the box and perform a little extra research prior to submitting your research paper topic ideas.
Let's say your paper is in the subject of science and involves controlling infectious diseases. There are hundreds of papers that have been written about vaccines, proper sanitation, clean water, proper nutrition, etc. To get noticed there are times when it is important to go against the grain. Look at one of the topics backwards. Do vaccines really work? Proof is starting to emerge that says "no." Now there's a different look at a common knowledge paper. Or you could take it one step further and look at what makes up a vaccine and follow the money trail back to the manufacturer.
Choosing a topic in this vain tells your professor that you have taken the time to choose your topic and that you are seriously accepting this assignment - it's important to you. You have piqued their interest and the professor now is anticipating your paper. Going against the grain places an added burden on you as the student - you must deliver so make sure you have plenty of resources available before turning in such a topic.
Now that you have an approved topic it's time to focus your research. To do this you must have a thesis statement. A good thesis statement takes time and your first one is a draft. Until you have performed a lot of research and written a rough draft of your paper you cannot have a final thesis statement. Your thesis tells the reader what your paper is about, where the paper is going, how the paper got there, and makes a decisive final conclusion. You cannot know all of this without research, analyzing all the data, and forming a conclusion. So your initial thesis is a rough guide to keep you on track as you begin digging into your sources.
Thesis statements can be one sentence but no more than three sentences. Any longer and you probably have too broad of a topic. A narrow focused topic makes for easy research and good academic writing and forces you as the author to come to some type of conclusion, which makes for a strong academic paper.
When developing your thesis keep in mind that academic papers convey a point of view and generally try and persuade the reader to understand and even agree with the author's viewpoint. Don't get bogged down with your initial thesis thinking you have to know exactly what point you are trying to prove within your paper - because your viewpoint can change as your uncover more information. In fact, you could end up with a viewpoint or conclusion no one has even considered, which could land you with the title of a "subject matter expert." So remember, your initial thesis statement is a rough draft. Do not hesitate to change it while working on your paper.
Now that you have an idea of where your paper is going it is time to develop an outline. Once again, it's a draft and can be changed as the need arises as more and more information is uncovered in your research.
Sticking with our example of vaccines, the outline simply can be:
Once you have an outline check it against your thesis to ensure the outline supports your statement.
Now it is time to go back and perform all your needed research. This is where your school's librarian can be extremely helpful. Do not be timid - show the librarian your thesis statement and outline and so they can tell you about all the resources available to help you write your paper.
Organize your notes and resources. Use your outline to keep your notes separate. You will have hundreds of pages to sift through when it comes time to write so it's best to separate all notes by your outline. As each part of your outline is flushed out by your research, add subtopics under each main heading in your outline to further organize your notes, thoughts and ultimately your paper.
Once you have completed the majority of your research it's time to write a rough draft so you can identify any holes in your paper and its conclusion. At the same time, this will flush out your thesis statement and finalize it.
With a final thesis it's time to edit your rough draft and perform any extra needed research. At this time smooth out your transitions or add them where necessary. Pay close attention to difficult topic areas and ensure the explanations clarify the data.
Now rewrite and tighten up your paper.
Double check all facts within your paper at this time and ensure all sources are cited in the proper format for your paper. Also use an online plagiarism checker to make sure your work is totally original.
By this time you are ready to turn it in and be done with it. Resist the urge. Read your whole paper out loud as a final edit. You will hear any grammatical errors. Now you are done.
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